School-Live Vol. #01 Manga Review

School-Live Vol. #01 Manga Review Cute girls doing cute girl things. Also: zombie apocalypse.

Creative Staff:
Art: Sadoru Chiba
Story: Norimitsu Kaihou (Nitroplus)
Translation: Leighann Harvey
Lettering: Alexis Eckerman

What They Say:
Meet the members of the School Living Club! There’s the shovel-loving (?) Kurumi Ebisuzawa, the big-sister figure Yuuri Wakasa, club advisor Megumi Sakura, and last but not least, the ever-optimistic Yuki Takeya. The School Living Club is just your average after-school organization where the girls hang out, have fun…and live at school as the sole survivors of a zombie apocalypse. NBD.

The Review:
School Live! Volume 1 is a standard-sized paperback release, with a cover featuring main character Yuki, in a desolate classroom, detailed in debris, rusted stacked desks, and tiny plants, all wrapping around to the back cover. The inside of the front and back covers feature character designs for Yuki, covering the slightly different outfits she wears as well as an assortment of silly and serious faces. To have Yen press make the most of its space and print extra tidbits on the back of the covers is something I’ve rarely seen done (at least in such a detailed capacity) and I hope other publishers follow suit.

Lettering throughout the volume is well done, with the original Japanese SFX and sign text remaining untouched, with an English translation immediately next to it. Some sound effects have their own word bubble, making it easy to erase and translate accordingly, but to have all SFX left unchanged creates a level of consistency, which I can respect. My only gripe with the letter formatting lies in an in-world pamphlet included at the end of the volume—while the majority of the text is legible, there is one instance where text is printed directly on top of an image of the same color, making it near-impossible to read without a lighter color. The pamphlet entry itself includes headers in black text outlined in white, which would have remedied this problem perfectly.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Yuki Takeya is your average pink-haired anime school girl—wait, keep reading it’s not what you think!

See, Yuki is one of a handful of survivors of a zombie infestation, getting through her day-to-day by convincing herself that she’s still attending the quirky, oddly self-sufficient school that she’s always been attending when in reality it’s become a bleak, deserted building surrounded by the undead. Her beliefs are further reinforced by her fellow peers and teacher, who’ve created the School Living Club as a means to justify why Yuki should never leave the building. It’s all so twisted when you overthink it, but when reading it, it actually leans more toward pleasant than dreary.

Volume 1 of School Live! covers the School Living Club’s activities of gardening, tests of courage, indoor camping, and letter-sending. It all sounds like standard “cute anime girls doing cute anime girl things,” but the added twist of having all this happen in the midst of a zombocalypse makes for a strange marriage that just works. While Yuki is the major driving factor behind most club activities, her two peers take care of the zombie end of things—Kurumi cutting down zombies with her trusty shovel, and Rii making sure they’re good on supplies.

One of the more major driving themes of the series is the future. To Kurumi and Rii, they look towards a future in terms of just how they’ll be able to survive with the world in such disarray. On the other hand, Yuki sees her future as it relates to the school. She has an odd fascination with the building itself, admiring each of its classrooms with their subject-specific themes. And as much as a screwup as she is in terms of academics, she genuinely loves the school and looks on the day she finally graduates with an air of sadness. The two mindsets work in tandem between chapters, helping form a unique narrative.

The occasional flashback interrupting the club’s current activity adds another layer of depth to the series, helping form a clearer picture as to the events that eventually led to the girls’ current situation. Zombies tend to follow different “rules” depending on the writer, so it’s interesting to have the School Live! iteration of zombies hint at the undead still retaining some memories of their life before everything went to hell. Seeing mangled bodies slump their way into the building when it rains, or having what Yuki has clearly identified as the baseball team group together during after-school warmups gives a level of insight to the zombies of this world that most horror series tend to shy away from. Rather than relying on a lack of knowledge as the hook to keep fans wanting more, it’s refreshing to see author Nitroplus be very generous when it comes to world-building elements, aware that there’s plenty more mysteries to explain over the run of the series anyway.

In Summary:
To say the series is purely “cutesy” or a straight survival/horror series would be misleading on both accounts. School Live doesn’t rely on either of its major pulls as a crux to form its story; rather it uses both to create something completely new and unique. Dialogue from Nitroplus clearly suggests a more slice-of-life feel, while Chiba’s beautifully detailed art would suggest an adventure/horror feel. On paper, you would think the writing and art wouldn’t mesh all that well, but in execution it makes for an interesting read.

Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A-

Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: November 17th, 2015
MSRP: $13.00